By Laurette Ryan
Recently, I was engaged in one of those crazy online “discussions” where a person asked “So, what makes Pilates different from other forms of exercise?” And just like it goes, at times when you are online, I couldn’t tell whether the “asker” was under the impression that Pilates was in fact no different, or they just wanted others to defend their personal position as to why it was different and see if it matched her contentions??? I, of course strongly believe Pilates is different, more importantly though I felt my clients thought it was different. The problem was, I so strongly believed this, that I never actually asked them what they thought.
I have spent the last couple of weeks asking! I’ve asked my clients, I’ve asked Pilates teachers, I’ve asked people online….and what I found out – made me smile, because I found out that what I know from a scientific and experiential foundation is what they believe too! Everyone who answered also replied that they expected to continue to practice Pilates for a lifetime! Let me repeat— a lifetime!
Interestingly, all student felt that they experienced a feeling or sense of having “lengthened” their muscles. Every respondent participated in other physical fitness activities. A few had then given up their other activities completely and solely practiced Pilates.
Whitney Arruda who runs on the treadmill and does free weights at home,has been practicing Pilates for 6 years on and off, said, “I find Pilates very effective, I have always been a runner to stay in shape, but after I started doing Pilates I found that Pilates lengthens the body and strengthens muscles that I didn’t know I had and other forms of training don’t reach. Pilates is a full body workout that lengthens and strengthens the body using your own body mass/muscle, Pilates gets the deeper muscles and not just the ones on the surface like many types of training.”
Carrie Brooks : “The word “lengthen” is a good summary word for Pilates.
Most students reported using principles like proper breathing, core engagement and a focused mind, which they learned in Pilates, in their other sports and activities. These Pilates enthusiasts recognized that Pilates was a system of exercises which focused on “whole body movement” Let me be honest, anytime anyone stated that -I was getting a little giddy. I could tell they “got it”. They might have started for a toned tummy…but after practicing they are all finding the joy in an efficiently balanced, functionally intelligent body. The consensus was that they had not previously understood- the what , how, or why of strengthening and using deep muscle groups like the transverse abdominus. ( I like to call it- your suck-in muscle, you know pretend your on the beach and that cute guy/gal walks by…you know-your suck-in muscle!)
“Pilates makes me feel longer, stronger, and more centered. My posture has changed drastically and I was recently deemed a half inch taller at a physical this year. I considered myself to be 5′ 4 1/2″ since my teenage years. When the nurse claimed that I was 5’5″, I had to ask her to please remeasure in order to convince myself that I “grew” in my late twenties!” says Kristen Reynolds,Pilates Teacher and Physical Therapist.
Lavina McKenna replied, “It really helped my posture which I can see now in old pictures of me. It toned and shaped better than all other types of exercises that I had ever done.”
The Teacher was noted as a very important factor in the effectiveness of the Pilates workout. Although, it is a topic of much debate, I think this emphasizes the need for setting guidelines or parameters like third party certification as a way for the public to find a qualified teacher.
When asked to explain why Pilates is different?,Tracy Maurstad, PMA-CPT of Las Vegas Pilates replied, “Interesting challenge Laurette. It’s hard to distill down something we’re so passionate about isn’t it? Pilates is not about how your body LOOKS. It’s about how your body WORKS. Looking good just happens to be a nice side benefit! Traditional weight training comes out of body building. Think about a body builder. On stage. Posing. Looking good. But not MOVING. Pilates uses full body movement emanating from a strong core not to get bigger, but to get better.” she also added, “…The concentration required. If you’re talking about The Housewives of Whatever and doing a Pilates exercise, you may be doing exercise, but you’re not doing Pilates. Practicing Pilates requires your full attention. The motion without the mind won’t get you there. Imagine your spine growing another inch, or a powerful magnet being dropped between your hip sockets, even just a little more weight into the ball of your big toes and the feeling of the exercise completely changes. I call those “Pilates moments”.
Is Pilates different? YES, those who practice properly agree. They may continue with running or weight training or cardio, but they need their Pilates. Nothing else substitutes. So whether my the “online-asker” of the question is satisfied ..I don’t know. What most importantly matters is, people do think Pilates is different and is effective and intend to practice it their whole lives.
Whitney summed it up, “I enjoy Pilates…. I find that it makes me feel good about my body and myself and also helps me mentally with stress from work/life.”
Pilates makes life better.
Now -go do your Pilates….